Trying to Find Hope After Your Partner Leaves – 2

I’ve made hope the centerpiece of this pair of posts because there’s such a powerful need for it after a depressed partner leaves. However unrealistic the hope may be, it’s necessary to take the place of pain and grief.

The problem of a hope born of desperation is the risk of further shocks in the future as the hope is disappointed. But hope is hard to analyze. The need to believe that the partner who’s gone must still feel something, however hidden, seems to me overwhelming. The moment of crisis is a poor time for realistic thinking.

That’s the problem with much of the advice that’s offered online or from friends, however compassionately it’s done. It comes out of rational, realistic thinking by someone who’s not in the midst of the storm.

On the one hand, that’s its value, a thoughtful perspective from someone you trust. On the other, the urgent need is for someone who will listen without telling you what you should be doing – someone who can respond to your feelings with compassion.

That balance between compassion and reason is also what you need when reaching out to a partner who’s breaking away. And it’s the balance you need to keep yourself going.

The suggestions I can make may not be very satisfactory in the immediacy of the loss. I think it helps, if at all possible, to keep them in mind from the outset.

Taking Care of yourself

After your partner leaves, you may pull out all the stops and follow your impulse to reach him – or you may be too overwhelmed to do anything. Whatever your initial reaction, that first wave of feeling is likely all about loss. The focus is on your partner: his feelings, what he must be going through and the support he needs to deal with his depression.

But the crisis is also about your needs. You’re under huge stress, and it could have been building over a long period. You’ve likely been living with depression for some time, even if neither you nor your partner recognized what was going on.

You need support, not just to figure out why he’s taken off and what you can do for him, but to help you deal with what you’re going through. If you don’t, you can go downhill fast into your own depression.

Depression is Contagious

Many therapists, like Michael Yapko, describe depression as contagious, and I think they’re right. A depressed partner can hit you with emotional withdrawal and refusal to talk, or go to the opposite extreme of blame, anger and emotional abuse.

Whatever it’s been like, you’ve taken the brunt of it. Stress sustained over a long period can cause numerous health problems. The hurt, worry, anxiety and anger in the closest relationship you have can readily lead to depression, along with its impact on sleep, appetite and motivation. It also can push you into isolation and hopelessness that can prevent you from getting the help you need.

Just as your partner needs help, so do you.

How to Get Help

The key thing is to find someone who will listen without judgment and help you work on the issues your partner’s depression and leaving have caused. This person could be a friend or religious counselor or therapist. Someone who has been trained to help people sort through such problems would probably be best.

If you can’t identify anyone through your own friends and family, you can consult online directories, like this one or Psych Central’s listing of numerous directories.

Talking to others who have had to face the same crisis is excellent support. You can find in-person and online peer support groups through the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance and also try the long-time online forum called Depression Fallout. These are especially valuable because you can find a lot advice that’s already been tried by people in your position.

Is Communication Possible?

This is someone you still love and you’re not going to sit by and do nothing. To a great extent, though, what you can do depends on what your partner lets you do.

Some block out all communication: no meetings, no calls, emails, letters or text messages. Perhaps they’ve moved away so you don’t even have an address. You can only talk to his friends or family to find out how he is or to convey a message for you. But there’s no response at all. That’s a pretty powerful signal of finality, but I’ve heard from many who try to find hope even in the refusal to respond.

Others are willing to talk, but the message is: I have to be alone to deal with depression and can’t be in a close relationship now. Total isolation is the answer while he works on his problems, often without help from anyone.

Some try to maintain the tie by talking frequently and express confusion about the relationship. Some stay in touch only to remind you that they think their problems are all your fault.

There are many other messages depressed partners might offer, but the bottom line is that they’ve cut you out of any active role. Often, they look on leaving as a big part of the answer to depression and never get treatment.

Generally, the behavior you see after they’ve left mirrors closely the way they treated you before taking the drastic step of getting out.

Offering Help

In thinking about how you can help, the key thing to keep in mind is that no one but the depressed partner can take the first steps to deal with illness. And he’ll do it in his own time, if he does it all. You can’t do it for him, but you can offer help and support.

In fact, that may be the only thing you can do, if communication is limited, and you get no response or invitation to do more. But if the door is open, you can offer help by sending information about depression or ideas you’ve found online. You can mention the types of treatment that are available, how to locate therapists, films, short videos and books that might be relevant. You can identify ways of getting help if he has no medical insurance. And you can simply indicate your availability to help whenever he might choose to call on you.

All this can clarify the options he has when he’s ready to make a serious attempt at treatment. You have to trust him to make up his own mind in his own time.

What You’re Really Communicating

It’s hard, though, to be that detached when you do get in touch. Usually, the motive for communicating is not simply to help but to keep the relationship going and keep your hope alive that he’ll return. It’s easy to push too hard so he’ll get rid of the depression that’s keeping you apart.

The message you communicate may come across in a way you don’t intend. He might read it as having to do more with your needs than with his. It may not sound like a disinterested offer, and that makes it hard for him to take your advice. Doing so would seem more like a sign that he was coming back to you, and that’s too sensitive to consider.

Making lots of suggestions about what he should do implies that it’s within his power to take action. However, he may not be able to do much of anything if he’s really going through an episode of major depression. He might just castigate himself all the more for not being able to follow your advice. Even after deciding to get out of his dark room and seek help, he’ll have a long way to go before learning how to cope with the illness and get back to his vital self. Inaction may not be a refusal to help himself but rather a sign of the depth of his depression.

Letting him move at his own pace is essential, but that too is hard when you long so much to restore the relationship or at least be assured that getting back together is a goal he shares. He might not know the answer to that himself.

Your Decision about You

Whatever you try to do or communicate may never have much effect. You may never get a signal that gives you real hope. Just as your partner has to decide about treatment, you’ll have to decide what’s best for you, and you’ll do it your own pace. There are no fixed rules to follow about any of these, just a series of examples of what others have done.

That’s why I emphasize the importance of taking care of yourself by getting the help and support you need. If you can do that, hopefully, you’ll get the guidance you’re looking for.

Some Rights Reserved for the image by mralsultan at Flickr

48 Responses to “Trying to Find Hope After Your Partner Leaves – 2”

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  1. Sara says:

    My amazing, wonderful fiance got very depressed and left me. No warnings, no signs, he just left a 4 year relationship with kids involved without even saying goodbye to any of us. He just sent a text. He turned overnight into a complete stranger. My loving, sensitive, gorgeous man was replaced with an aggressive, blaming, cold monster.

    A few times since he has come back to me for a few days at a time. I live for those times. He comes to me and tells me he didn’t know what he was thinking. He says his “love” just went away and all he felt was anger and fear. He begs me to wait, to trust and to believe he will be back.

    Then after a few wonderful days, the horror descends again and he tells me he doesn’t love me, that we have no future, that talking about it is pointless.

    He blames me for his depression, or at least says I am a “factor” and this is killing me. He never told me anything between us was making him unhappy. I feel so lost.

    He is being treated for a major depressive episode with medication and therapy. He is better, more stable, but he feels no emotions. No joy, no love. Because the anti depressants are working to relieve his depression he takes this as confirmation that leaving his family was the right choice.

    He doesn’t even find anything strange about not loving us anymore, although he freely admits before he was depressed I was “his world”. I wish he was better and would come home.

  2. brien jones says:

    I have been married for 15 years and my wife has left me on 2/12/14. She mentioned that she loves and no longer wants to be married. She says that I did not meet her needs and wants over 15 years. It is hard to believe over 15 years of marriage. We had a lot of good times and bad times. My wife’s statement is hard take. I asked her did you she meet somebody or interested in someone else. My wife has issues with self-esteem and weight issues over the years. She will not accept my calls nor text messages and we have two children together. She did mention that we have to work on each other before any marriage restoration can be reviewed and that still put in a no win situation and nothing is guaranteed. Please advise of how to handle these things at “

  3. daren says:

    hey am daren i had a wonderful relation with a wonderful ladie she was my gf for 4 years it was really so beautiful but due to me we broke up. i was always afraid from the future i had to many problems in my childhood and that’s what made me leave as a pessimist person for a certain number of years i decided to be alone and i think that i really changed in the past 2 years and am now optimistic i knew that i love her and i will still in love with her .i wanted to come back but i was shocked cause she is now in a new relation and it seems very serious.i cant forget her and i dont think i will i need help to continue my life as now am passing in really horrible time i am thinking all day all night i think this is taking me crazy.i want to win her back and i dont know if i can surpass this.i cant go to new relation cause i cant it is been 2 years but now 5 months to stressed knowing that she went in a relation.i know i made mistakes in the past and i know that i was thinking like a kid and now am more mature and i am sure of what i want.any help
    thank you

  4. Jonathan says:

    My darling loving wife of 22 years announced last week she was going to leave. We have two beautiful children 13 and 10. My 10 year old has Autism and that’s a whole other story as too how is is going to cope.
    My wife had a difficult childhood and when I met her she was 17. I helped her through watching her Mam die of cancer 6 months later.
    Over the years depression reared its head but we dealt with it together. Progressively it got worse until two years ago she went to pieces. We got over that hurdle but my wife’s Doctors suggested counselling. For the past year my wife has had EMDR therapy. This is pretty intense therapy which was aimed at helping my wife deal with not grieving over her Mothers death along with other childhood issues.
    Pretty soon into the therapy my wife’s personality changed completely. She is now distant uncaring thoughtless. 6 months ago she announced she didn’t love me that way. She didn’t have a plan but didn’t see a future together for us.
    She flatly denies depression saying she is dealing with issues. She now is just trying to take control and find peace.
    I cannot begin to explain the pain in my heart. I can’t breathe sometimes. My soul mate is leaving, leaving with no explanations given.
    I could say a lot more but
    Do women who leave under these circumstances come back or is it final?
    Does anyone has experience of this?

    • Carl says:

      Hey Jonathan, You story sounds alot like mine. My ex gf lost her mother suddenly, then her best friend also died suddenly. She was diagnosed 2 years ago went untreated we handled that bout. In May she breaks up with me out the blue she changed completely was cold and uncaring apathetic hasn’t asked how i am in over 5months. She also flatly denies depression tho her behavior is text book. They wont be rational or reasonable and you wont get any answers I haven’t..I experienced these worst parts of her life be her side kept her going..and now im treated like i wasn’t her best friend and soul mate.

      I know your pain i feel it everyday. Obviously two healthy people talk and work through there problems. But how they see things is distorted and how they feel right now or lack of is real to them its there reality and they wont hear any different. There feelings are there i do believe this but there just so consumed with apathy that we dont matter.

      • Jonathan says:

        Thank you.
        It’s comforting to know it’s not just me, your description well fits my wife.
        It’s like I don’t exist. Everything is about her, her feelings her thoughts.
        If you had asked my 2 years ago if this would happen to our family I would have laughed you out of town.
        Got my 2 kids to look after. Due to M illness I still feel it’s my obligation to her to the kids and to my marriage vows to keep my heart open for her.
        But who knows what the future holds.
        I hope she finds the peace she longs for

        • Carl says:

          I see you have found your way to the fallout site. Good you will get great support there. Ive never had to endure this kind of pain before, and i cant stand being treated like i dont exist…but its gonna take her time we are not getting any love or respect so we have to give that to ourselves.

          • Jonathan says:

            Well last night was her first night in her new flat.

            It’s so hard 24 years together. And nothing. Im struggling with the unjustness and unfairness of it all
            She has done this to my kids, split up a caring loving home.
            We will be sharing equally I hope the childcare.

            Do I just let her be or fight because of the kids?
            I’m quite mad actually I’ve had no say in all of this.
            I just fit into line with whatever she wishes.

            Aargh. This is hard.

  5. Cass says:

    I’d like to say thank you for the many articles on this site because for the longest time I couldn’t comprehend what was going on. My partner left as well and I can’t come to terms with it because I keep on thinking of the ‘him’ when he was ok. I stayed on because I knew he was going through something deep and it wasn’t who he was. But one day he just left over a text.

    The last year we were together was turmoil and I supported him financially and emotionally and just a few weeks ago, he decided to up and leave and told me he has never loved me that I’m better off moving on and better off with someone else that can love me and care for me the way i deserve. This comes after months of him saying we need space and eventually just leaving. I had to pack his things for him (we share a house). He says he needs to fix himself without me.

    I’m trying to move on with life and accept the situation but being left with a heap of bills, confused and heartbroken is proving harder to get my life back. I don’t know what to do because my job is suffering.

    • Nile says:


      I’m in the same situation as you. My girlfriend was dealing with a lot of stress in the last month or so. She’ll ask for space and I’ll leave her alone. Usually she’ll contact me after few days to hang out again. She prefers to deal with the stress by herself, at least that’s the way it seems. She hates to cry in front of people because she feels self conscious about it.

      She asked for space again 2 weeks ago. This time lasted a week before she finally send texts to say she’s sorry for put me through a lot of pain. She says she can’t deal with relationships for long and regrets put me through it all. She says she cares about me and that I deserve better.

      It was hard to read such texts because I love her and want to be there by her side when she goes through tough times. Anyhow, she decided it was best to break up. I gracefully accepted it at the time. 3 days later I made contact to ask her to reconsider. That didn’t end well. She got really upset and was very stressed out. I backed off and apologized.

      I stopped all contacts since. I sincerely wish she gets better. I wish her happiness with me or without me. It’s heartbreaking for me as I just started to learn about her conditions and would accept her fully regardless.

      Cass, I could only imagine how hard it must have been for you these days.

      • sue says:

        Ive just gone through exactly the same scenario. Together a year, bliss, love of my life about to move in then bam!!! A few arguments where not nice things were said, and a guy at my work coming onto me(which i told my ex about) led to a depressive episode. I knew he was sensitive, had past chilhood problems but all the little imperfections of our relationship coupled with thoughts of past led to him breaking it off with me . One minute he loved me and it wasnt me the next it was all me and i had f…ed him up. He wouldnt speak to me or see me for months and i hung in there everyday, offering love and support, but he continued to text every day or so. Everytime he sensed id had enough he would say its the depression i dont know what i want, we may be together again, i dont know bla bla bla…
        In my case I have two children by my ex husband and knew i could no longer live with this. So did everything i was meant to. Offer support if needed told him all the wonderful things about him, said if he gets better he knows where i am(hes in therapy) then said im leaving you to sort yourself.
        Then come the angry text messages, again i offer to meet, no, he never acknowledged one word i said one answer i gave him. Apparemtly i never loved him enough, he couldnt cope with the kids not being his(apparently i rubbed this in his face),not once did i, so i get cross now esp when a friend sees him out with a mate when he is too depressed to see me.
        I get cross and ive not had contact with him since. I bagen to feel ill and i cant go down that road My children need a strong mum. If a relationship isnt perfect, leave, it shouldnt feel like this. if its meant to be THEY will return to you.
        Yes im heartbroken, have that feeling in my stomach, cant sleep. But remind myself everyday i am unhappy because of him. He once made me so happy and to make me feel this way isnt the one for me.
        Wow that helped writing it down.
        Feel for everyone going through this right now

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